Apricots Are Great but Avoid the PitfallsNutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Last year, a 67-year-old man poisoned himself by eating apricot kernels (the seeds of this fruit). He was in remission for prostate cancer but otherwise appeared healthy.
According to the report, he came to the hospital for a “routine surgery” and doctors were shocked to discover he had very low blood oxygen levels. They found high levels of cyanide, a poison that can kill a person in minutes if they have a high enough dose in their blood.
“The man was not trying to slowly poison himself, it turns out, it was rather the opposite—he had been eating apricot kernels and kernel supplements for the past five years in a bid to help keep his prostate cancer in remission, reports Alessandra Potenza for The Verge.”
The compound called amygdalin, found in apricot kernels, has been reported to kill cancer cells.
“The seeds inside apricots that resemble almonds have been trumpeted as a miraculous natural cure for cancers. The toxicity of the cyanide supposedly kills off the cancer cells. But that is not the case, reports Potenza. The poison is just as toxic to healthy cells as it is to cancerous ones.”
Luckily, the man did not consume enough of the kernels to cause death.
“The apricot kernels themselves don’t have cyanide in them, but upon digestion the body converts a compound called laetrile into the poison. And despite the claims of some natural health practitioners, no existing studies have been found that meet scientific standards for proving that laetrile actually helps combat cancer…,” according to the report.
But aside from the kernels, apricots are a safe, healthy and delicious food.
Belonging to the Rosaceae plant family, along with peaches, plums and nectarines, apricots are believed to be native to Asia. They are called “khubani” in Hindi.
Reportedly, California is the main producer of apricots in the U.S. There are about a dozen apricot varieties and even some apricot hybrids, like the plumcot (cross between a plum and an apricot).
The use of apricot oil, which is extracted from the seed, appears to be safe for cooking. This oil contains essential fatty acids that the body needs to be healthy. The two types of essential fatty acids apricot oil contains are linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). To be on the safe side, speak with a competent healthcare professional before using apricot oil, especially if you have any existing health conditions.
(Apricot oil may even be good for relieving earaches, but consult your doctor first. Many people also swear by using apricot oil as a skin moisturizer due to its high antioxidant content).
Omega-6 helps with brain function and normal growth and development. Omega-3 may reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
“A deficiency of essential fatty acids—either omega-3s or omega-6s—can cause rough, scaly skin and dermatitis ” according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
The fleshy part of apricots is a great source of the vitamins C and A, two very important nutrients for immune function. Vitamin C helps the immune system to work at its best, which may lower the risk of developing cardiovascular illnesses and other diseases. It is one of the most important nutrients needed for our survival. It is also an antioxidant, which means it helps protect our bodies from free radicals and other harmful molecules that may increase our risk for cancer, heart disease and many other diseases.
“Vitamin A and its metabolites play critical roles in both innate and adaptive immunity. In innate immunity, the skin and mucosal cells of the eye and respiratory, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary tracts function as a barrier against infections. Vitamin A helps to maintain the structural and functional integrity of these mucosal cells,” according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
Vitamin A may also play a role in the prevention of urinary stones and help slow aging in the body.
Apricots contain lycopene, which is also found in tomatoes. Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment (an antioxidant). It may help prevent cancer, reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and more.
A study published in the medical journal Osteoporosis International found evidence from examining a group of postmenopausal women that lycopene may slow down the breakdown of bone cells, which may cause osteoporosis.
Apricots also have a high water content. Eating foods rich in water not only will help keep you hydrated, but they may also may make you feel fuller longer, prevent constipation, beat belly bloat and prevent cravings. And an added bonus is the combination of water and antioxidants in apricots may help keep your skin and hair looking beautiful.
Let’s check out some of the nutrients in just one cup of raw, sliced apricots:
- Calcium, 21 mg. Calcium is the go-to nutrient for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps control high blood pressure and diabetes. It also ensures that your heart, nerves and muscles are all functioning properly.
- Magnesium, 16 mg. Magnesium is necessary for all our cells to function efficiently. It positively affects liver and kidney health and protects the organs from damage and fungal infections. Magnesium can also protect the brain and may reduce behavioral disorders and mood swings.
- Phosphorus, 38 mg. Phosphorus helps normalize your heartbeat and kidney functions, while helping with the body’s nerve signaling and muscle contractions. Phosphorus may also help you lose weight!
- Potassium, 427 mg. This mineral works with sodium to balance the fluid and electrolytes in the body. Potassium also helps keep blood pressure under control and may help reduce kidney stones and bone loss as you age. It may even reduce your risk of stroke. Most adults need about 4,700 mg of potassium per day. So, kiwis are a great place to start.
- Folate, 15 mcg. Folate (also called vitamin B9) is a very important nutrient, especially for pregnant women, whose RDA is 400 mg. Folate may help prevent cancer and heart disease and improve mental health.
- Lutein + Zeaxanthin, 147 mcg. These are two carotenoids and antioxidants that concentrate in eye tissue. According to the American Optometric Association, “[l]utein and zeaxanthin filter harmful high-energy blue wavelengths of light and help protect and maintain healthy cells in the eyes. Of the 600 carotenoids found in nature, only these two are deposited in high quantities in the retina (macula) of the eye.”
Dried apricots are delicious too. Eat them for a quick breakfast or top them on some Greek yogurt or oatmeal.
I’m going to try this Apricot-Strawberry Smoothie. It looks refreshing, and all you need are three ingredients!
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- ¾ cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk
- 2 fresh apricots, pitted and sliced
Precautions with apricots?
Aside from the kernel of the apricot, this fruit appears to be overall safe. Keep in mind, they do contain a substantial amount of sugar. Credible sources say apricots are an acceptable food for people with diabetes, but if you are a diabetic, it is always wise to consult your doctor first.
Finally, if you have any health issues or are taking any medications, communicate with a competent healthcare professional about what foods are a part of your daily diet. You always want to avoid a drug interaction.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.